Jaguars, city nearing agreement on incentives package for stadium site developments

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The city of Jacksonville is nearing an agreement with the Jaguars on an incentives package for development of a parking lot on the southwest side of TIAA Bank Field.

According to Mike Mendenhall of the Jacksonville Daily Record, Mayor Lenny Curry said earlier this week the two sides were “verbally close on an agreement” that would help pave the way for development of the site.

The intended project, which would be carried out by Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s development company, is set to included a small arena venue, hotel, 300-unit residential tower and an office building.

Discussions have been ongoing since April and a plan is expected to be presented to the Jacksonville City Council by the end of the summer. If approved, the project would have an anticipated starting date of early next year following the conclusion of the upcoming season.

NFL suspends full-time officiating program

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With legalized gambling spreading, it’s more important than ever for the NFL to create the impression that it’s doing everything it can to ensure that officials get as many calls right as possible. And so, of course, the NFL has put its full-time officiating program on ice.

Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com reports that the league has shelved full-time officiating as part of ongoing labor discussions with the NFL Referees Association. This means that NFL officials will revert to being part-time employees, which presumably stinks for those NFL officials who had become full-time employees (and in turn given up their other part-time gigs).

It’s undoubtedly a bargaining tactic by the NFL, which showed in 2012 that it’s more than willing to compromise the quality of officiating (and in turn the integrity of the game) by locking out the officials and hiring replacements. After three embarrassing weekends, the league resolved the work stoppage.

The current labor deal between the NFL and its officials runs through March 2020. Which likely means that the NFL will once again be pennywise and pound foolish, undervaluing a function that become far more important as the NFL is poised to make millions more from the legalization of sports wagering.

Report: Tyreek Hill’s former fiancee files petition to establish paternity of twins

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Tyreek Hill‘s former fiancee filed a court case Thursday seeking to prove the Chiefs receiver is the father of her newborn twins, the Kansas City Star reports. Crystal Espinal wants to establish supervised parenting time for him as well as child support.

The twins reside with Espinal and carry her last name, the petition states.

The filing, via the newspaper, also states that Espinal and Hill “are not married, never have been married, and do not intend to be married.”

Espinal’s legal counsel is Susanna Coxe, of SAFEHOME, an organization in the Kansas City area that supports survivors of domestic violence.

Only four months ago, Espinal and Hill were involved in a child abuse probe involving their then 3-year-old son. The child was removed from the custody of the parents, and it is unclear whether that status has changed, the newspaper reports.

Hill remains suspended from all team activities, and the league still could punish him under its Personal Conduct Policy.

He recently met with NFL investigators for eight hours in Kansas City and how and when Hill’s situation is resolved was PFT’s No. 13 storyline for 2019.

Golden Tate says Giants have a “really good problem” at quarterback

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Is there ever a “really good problem?” Apparently when it comes to the Giants’ quarterback situation.

Free agent signee Golden Tate said the Giants have two good options at quarterback, with Eli Manning still playing at a high level and Daniel Jones drafted as the heir apparent.

“What I can I see, Eli Manning’s got a lot of juice left,” Tate told NFL Network on Thursday. “He’s still got some zip on his passes.

“I’ve been impressed. I think we have a really good problem. We’ve got a Hall of Fame-type of quarterback in my mind, and we also drafted a guy, a young guy, so we don’t need Daniel to come in and save the day. We just need Daniel to stay on pace, learn as much as he possibly can in a great environment and just take it day by day. We don’t need him to come in tomorrow and win a game. We just need him to stay on pace. I think that’s good news in my mind.”

Manning has dismissed the idea of a competition for the starting job even as Giants coach Pat Shurmur left the offseason program indicating Jones will get a chance to win the job. While Manning remains the favorite to win the job out of training camp, the Giants didn’t draft Jones with the sixth overall choice to sit for long.

Report: NFL likely to stick with DirecTV through end of current deal

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The NFL apparently is keeping the $1.5 billion bird in the hand.

Daniel Kaplan of TheAthletic.com reports that the league currently is expected to stick with its current Sunday Ticket arrangement through DirecTV. With talks on a new deal between the NFL and AT&T (DirecTV’s parent company) “at a standstill,” the expectations is that two sides will continue under the terms of the existing deal through the 2020-21 season.

Kaplan’s report conflicts with other information that has surfaced in recent months. Sports Business Journal reported, for example, that the NFL has until the start of the 2019 regular season to opt out of the contract at the end of the 2019-20 season. SBJ also indicated that the NFL-DirecTV pact has three remaining years, not two.

Via Kaplan, the mutual option to terminate the deal prematurely expired “in recent months,” with NFL and AT&T continuing talks under a “gentleman’s agreement.”

Regardless of the conflicting details, the NFL is feeling good about where it currently is, thanks to the $1.5 billion per year that DirecTV pays for the Sunday Ticket service.

“The NFL is going to be in a good position,” an unnamed ownership source told Kaplan. “I mean, I don’t mean that to sound obnoxious. But I mean, they’re gonna pay us a lot of money, or there are others with different business models lined up to pay us different money for different versions of it. . . . I think the NFL will be fine. I think AT&T is paralyzed.”

AT&T may not want to pay $1.5 billion per year for Sunday Ticket, but it also surely doesn’t want to endure the mass exodus of DirecTV customers if/when DirecTV no longer is part of the package.

The balance for the NFL is money versus an expanded footprint among younger fans, especially via a streaming alternative for Sunday Ticket that could attract plenty of cord cutters and/or dish dumpers. For now, money is winning.

As it usually does.

Melvin Gordon’s agent says RB “prepared to sit as long as he has to”

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Running back Melvin Gordon has informed the Chargers he won’t show up without a new deal. One of Gordon’s agents, Damarius Bilbo, said earlier Thursday “a strong possibility” exists that Gordon could sit into the regular season in the absence of a new contract agreement.

Another of Gordon’s agents, Fletcher Smith, told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Thursday afternoon that Gordon is “prepared to sit as long as he has to.”

“He’s prepared to sit, and we’ll take it day by day, week by week and see how things go,” Smith said. “But at this time, if he can’t anything done, he certainly won’t be at training camp, and he’s prepared to sit as long as he has to.”

Gordon, who is scheduled to make $5.605 million this year, became eligible for a second contract after the 2017 season. He would lose $330,000 for each week of the regular season missed in a holdout.

Gordon’s agents remain hopeful of working out a deal with the Chargers, who had no comment on Gordon’s holdout threat. Gordon has not demanded a trade, and the Chargers have not given Gordon’s agents permission to seek one, Smith said.

Gordon would prefer to stay with the Chargers, but he’s willing to go wherever for more money.

“We’ll see how it plays out,” Smith said. “Maybe he ends up staying where he is right there in Los Angeles. There’s nothing to suggest that he does not want to be there. He just wants to be compensated. He’d love to stay in [Los Angeles], assuming we can get something done. If not, he’s prepared to move.”

Drugs or alcohol not a factor in Kendrick Norton crash

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The report from the Florida Highway Patrol regarding the crash that caused Dolphins defensive tackle Kendrick Norton to lose his left arm concluded that drugs or alcohol weren’t factors in the crash.

Via Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com, Norton was cited for an improper lane change from the accident, in which Norton’s truck flipped over in the early hours of July 4.

Norton pulled in front of another vehicle, causing his truck to hit a concrete barrier and flip. The driver of the other vehicle left the scene without injury.

The University of Miami product has had four surgeries on his left arm, and has more in his future, as he plans on a prosthetic.

Since the crash, he has reached out to well-wishers on social media, thanking them for support and asking them to donate blood.

Originally a seventh-round pick of the Panthers, Norton was signed off their practice squad in December.

XFL will make “concerted effort” to diversify officiating staff

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The NFL hired Sarah Thomas as an on-field official in 2015. She remains the lone female on-field official in the NFL, though two other women are in replay booths this season.

The XFL will make a “concerted effort” to diversify its officiating staff, Dean Blandino told Melissa Jacobs of Football Girl Podcast, via Football Zebras.

Blandino, the former NFL officiating senior vice president, serves as a consultant with the XFL in charge of rules and recruitment.

“We’re trying to create more opportunities for female officials and minority officials,” Blandino told Jacobs. “The XFL is going to be a showcase for officials all over the country to get more looks and potentially have the NFL look at them. So we’re going to put together an inclusive [officiating] staff.”

Blandino served as an adviser for The Alliance of American Football, which had three female officials on the field, and also is the executive director of a documentary about women in officiating called Her Turf.

Matt Nagy: Let’s not get complacent

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Coming off four consecutive seasons with losing records and with a new coaching staff, the 2018 Bears weren’t expected to do much.

But they went from worst to first, surprising many by winning the NFC North with a 12-4 record.

That has the Bears among the favorites in the NFC this year.

“For our culture, our organization, we got off on the right foot, right?” Bears coach Matt Nagy told SiriusXM NFL Radio. “So we ended up 12-4, lost in the playoffs and now the big thing is let’s not get complacent. Just because we had a good year last year, that’s not here any more. We’ve got to start 0-0. But when you have good people like we do on our team — good human beings — it helps.”

Nagy and the Bears are embracing where they are. Akiem Hicks has talked about the team not regressing, and Eddie Jackson has said they want to “top everything” the 1985 Bears did.

Now, it’s a matter of winning the win.

“There’s definitely pressure and expectations now, but we wouldn’t want it any other way,” Nagy said.

Jimmy Garoppolo: “A lot of similarities” between George Kittle, Rob Gronkowski

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Rob Gronkowski said he’s not sure how he’ll feel once games get underway in September, but he’s retired for now and that takes one of the most entertaining figures in recent NFL history off the board.

One of Gronkowski’s former teammates thinks there’s another tight end who can offer some of the same things that Gronkowski did. 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo played with Gronkowski in New England and now plays with George Kittle, who gives the quarterback some reminders of the Patriots great.

“There are a lot of similarities — on the field and a little bit off the field, too. George is tremendous,” Garoppolo said, via Vinnie Iyer of Sporting News. “The energy he brings every day, how he goes about his business — he’s always having fun while he’s doing it. Very similar to Gronk, they both enjoy what they do. It makes everything more enjoyable. It’s fun to be around, and it’s contagious. To have a guy like that makes our team so much closer as well as much better.”

Kittle’s personality isn’t as well known as Gronkowski’s, but there’s little doubt about his ability to make a team better on the field after his 88 catches for 1,377 yards last season. Garoppolo was missing for most of the year and the hope around the Niners will be that things get even better now that he’s back in the lineup.

Jaguars waive Dredrick Snelson

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The Jaguars needed a spot for former West Virginia receiver Marcus Simms, who agreed to terms after going undrafted in the supplemental draft Wednesday.

The team announced it waived receiver Dedrick Snelson with an injury designation Thursday to make room.

Snelson will revert to the Jaguars’ injured reserve list if he clears waivers.

He signed with the Jaguars this spring after going undrafted.

During his three seasons at the University of Central Florida, Snelson caught 106 passes for 1,519 yards and 15 touchdowns in 32 games. He also rushed for 16 yards and a touchdown on four carries.

“Hundreds of calls and offers” received after Albert Haynesworth asks for a kidney

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Former NFL standout Albert Haynesworth has asked the fans for a kidney, and the fans are responding.

Via the Knoxville News Sentinel, Vanderbilt University Medical Center chief communications officer John Howser said in a statement that the facility has received “hundreds of calls and offers for organ donation from well-wishers and individuals expressing interest.”

That’s good news for Haynesworth. Others who need a kidney aren’t so lucky; via the News Sentinel, 12 people die per day waiting for a new kidney.

Also, of the 123,000 Americans currently on the waiting list for an organ transplant, more than 101,000 need a kidney. Haynesworth is one of them, and it looks like he’s moving closer to getting the one kidney he needs.

The 15th pick in the 2002 draft, Haynesworth played for the Titans, Washington, the Patriots, and the Buccaneers.

Four NFL teams have lost significant numbers of fans in last decade

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Not surprisingly, fewer fans are going to games in person. Financial news site 24/7 Wall St. used sports attendance data from ESPN over the past 10 years and found every one of the four major sports leagues in the United States has seen a decline in total attendance from 2008 to 2018.

But not every team is losing fans at the same rate.

Of the 12 franchises in the four sports to see the biggest decline in attendance, four were NFL teams.

Washington saw the biggest attendance decline among NFL franchises, ranking fifth with a 31.1 percent drop in average attendance, according to 24/7 Wall St.

The team led the NFL in average attendance in 2008, with 88,604 fans packing FedEx Field that season. In 2018, Washington averaged 61,028 fans, a decline of 31.1 percent.

Washington was the only NFL team that failed to fill at least three-quarters of seats in its stadium last season, per the website.

If Dwayne Haskins does what Washington drafted him to do, the team could see a resurgence.

The Bengals rank seventh on the list with a 21.4 percent drop in average attendance, the Buccaneers 10th with a 15.7 percent decline and the Colts 12th with a 10.8 percent decline.

If you’re wondering why the Chargers aren’t listed, 24/7 Wall St. did not consider teams that “switched venues or made significant changes to their existing venue.”

Major League Baseball had the top four teams on the list led by the Detroit Tigers, with a 41.3 percent average attendance drop since 2008.

Duke Johnson chooses Drew Rosenhaus for representation

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Browns running back Duke Johnson wants out of Cleveland. Agent Kristin Campbell wasn’t able to make that happen. Agent Drew Rosenhaus will now get a chance to do so.

Johnson has selected Rosenhaus to handle Johnson’s contractual situation going forward.

The first order of business will be to get the Browns to send Johnson to a new team, given that Johnson is now caught behind Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The Browns presumably want to keep Johnson until Hunt’s eight-game suspension has ended.

Rosenhaus will now go to work behind the scenes to get Johnson what he wants. Earlier this year, Rosenhaus engineered a trade that sent defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah to Kansas City from Cleveland. More significantly, Rosenhaus somehow got receiver Antonio Brown a new team, and a big raise.

Would Mike Vrabel cut his genitals off to win Super Bowl? “Probably”

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Titans head coach Mike Vrabel won three Super Bowls with the Patriots during his playing days, but it doesn’t look like those victories have diminished his desire to win another one in Tennessee.

Vrabel was a guest on a podcast hosted by Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan and former Titans linebacker Will Compton recently and the topic of conversation got around to whether he’d have a part of his body removed if it meant the team would win the Super Bowl. Specifically, Vrabel was asked if he would cut his penis off if it meant the Titans got the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

The entire exchange is below, via PaulKuharsky.com.

Lewan: Matt Neely [an assistant for the podcast] said he would cut off his d–k for a, uno, Super Bowl, and I said ‘No, I would not do that.’ Would you cut your d–k off for a Super Bowl?

Vrabel: Been married 20 years. Yeah, probably.

Lewan: You’ve got three?!

Vrabel: As a player. . . . You guys will be married for 20 years one day. You won’t need it.

Lewan: If you come home with a bag of ice, and [Vrabel’s wife] Jen is like ‘Oh honey what did you do.’ I cut . . . my d–k off, we’re gonna win a Super Bowl, she’d be like ‘eh,’ or would she be upset?

Vrabel: She’d be like do you want me to do it? Do you want to do it now?

Vrabel said earlier this offseason that he is pushing the Titans to go from good to great this year. The chances of getting the team’s players to buy in seem better if that procedure is not part of the program.